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Theorising collaboration practice

Huxham, C. (2003) Theorising collaboration practice. Public Management Review, 5 (3). pp. 401-423. ISSN 1471-9037

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This article provides an overview of the theory of collaborative advantage. This is a practice-oriented theory concerned with enhancing practical understanding of the management isssues involved in joint working across organizations. Two contrasting concepts are central to it: collaborative advantage which is concerned with the potential for synergy from working collaboratively; and, collaborative inertia which relates to the often disappointing output in reality. The theory is structured as a set of overlapping themes, which are predominantly issues that practitioners see as causing pain and reward in collaborative situations. Five example themes are discussed: common aims; power; trust; membership structures; and, leadership. It is argued that the theory captures the complexity that underlies collaborative situations and conveys it in a way that seems real to those involved. It aims to empower those involved through legitimising experienced frustration and providing conceptual handles to help address the practical issues involved.